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First Step into Overseas Market - Qatar

If you have been actively looking for work as a construction professional in the Middle East over the last few years but have not worked in the region previously, there's a fair chance you've been told your CV is not suitable for a vacancy because you have no previous experience of working in the region. Frustrating right?

You're not alone though!

I would estimate at least 75% of the clients I have been working with in the Middle East for the last 5 years have shown a strong desire to only receive applicant CV's with previous experience in the region.

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with dismissing a candidate purely based on this criteria, I do understand why it's seen as preferable to an employer. During the boom in Dubai 7 - 8 years ago there was a mass exodus of Quantity Surveyors and other construction professionals fleeing the UK to work in Dubai for the first time. Of this mass of first time expatriate workers was a significant number of people that just couldn't settle in the region or simply couldn't adapt to the changes in working culture and returned home within 6 months.

Let's not forget there are significant costs to an employer when employing candidates in the region including Visa costs, mobilisation flights, providing accommodation and even schooling costs for families with children.

Employing a candidate who has already proven themselves in the region at least offers the employer some security that they are hiring a candidate that can deliver in the role for a sustained period. It's fair to say that hiring first time expatriate staff can be more of a risk, but in my opinion it can also hold more reward.

Changing of Attitudes

Well, the good news is that over the last 9 months I have seen a clear trend that companies, particularly in Qatar are not only willing to hire candidates with no previous experience in the region but are actively looking to attract some of the best talent in the UK to come and work in Qatar.

I can only see this trend improving even further for qualified Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, Engineers and Claims professionals wanting to come to the Middle East for the first time in their careers.

I'd like to say that employers saw sense and realised there was a great talent pool of staff wanting to work in the region just sat in the UK being told they weren't suitable because they hadn't worked there before, however it is more of a simple issue of supply and demand as to why attitudes appear to be changing.

Qatar is busy. Very busy! The Doha Metro is in full swing, the airport which constantly changes its name but I now believe to be known as Hamad International Airport is operational but continues to have work done on it. Roads projects are rife with the new Doha Expressway, Al Wakrah Bypass and Orbital Highway to name but a few underway. There are huge plans for a new sewerage and utility system in Qatar, there is the Sharq crossing that hasn't even started yet and finally there's a little thing called the World Cup that Qatar hosts in 2022 and 8 brand new state of the art football stadiums that need to be built.

Things are only going to get busier for at least another couple of years in Qatar. The work is there for construction to continue to boom for another 5 years at least and Qatar faces some unique challenges to attract staff compared to the likes of Dubai which is unquestionably a more desirable location for most expatriates.

Challenges Qatar Faces to Attract Staff: The UAE

In short the main challenge for Qatar is the UAE. Particularly Dubai is widely seen as the most attractive location for expatriate staff in the Middle East region. It's lively, it's very liberal and it has a certain prestige about the place that Qatar arguably lacks. It's not that candidates actively dislike Qatar in my experience, more that those who have had a taste of Dubai are reluctant to be tempted away to work in Qatar. Therefore taking away the supply of a large number of expatriate workers who have already worked in the region. As Dubai begins to get busier next year, I expect a reasonable percentage of construction professionals in Qatar to make the transition to Dubai creating even more jobs in the country.

  • No Objection Certificates (NOC)
    An NOC is a certificate that anyone currently working in Qatar requires to move from one employer to another within Qatar. With finding good staff in Qatar becoming hard to come by, many companies are not offering parting staff and NOC certificate, therefore barring them from moving jobs within Qatar. It's only right to point out that some employees are given NOC's and that you do not require an NOC to move from an employer in Qatar to anywhere else in the region, ie Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman etc.
  • Schooling
    There is a shortage of schooling places available in Qatar currently. Especially for children in the early years of their schooling. Some companies do have very good relationships with schools and may be able to assist with getting one child into schools immediately but typically you need to prepare for the possibility of joining a waiting list when trying to get children into the International schools. Therefore some candidates with children of schooling age have had to dismiss Qatar from their job search or consider alternatives such as travelling single status until they get the green light for their child's schooling place. If you have children that are not of schooling age and below 4, getting your children on waiting lists early before they reach schooling should avoid this problem.

Benefits of Qatar

  • Some of the Largest Projects in the World
    Despite some of the issues raised above, Qatar remains one of the most exciting construction markets in the World at present. It is currently building and has plans to build some of the most ambitious projects that you will find around the globe currently.
  • Market Leading Employers
    All of the major International main contractors and consultancies are present in Qatar trying to get their slice of the pie. The opportunities are there to work for market leading companies on World leading projects.
  • High Salary Packages
    The salaries are amongst the best out there. Salaries in Doha are typically 10% - 20% more than other countries in the region such as the UAE, Oman and Bahrain. All earnings are tax free and on top of a basic salary you can expect to have a benefits package including housing allowance, car, flights to home country for vacation, private medical cover and a guaranteed bonus paid upon leaving a company based on how many years service you have given (Gratuity Bonus).

In summary, Qatar stacks up to be one of the most attractive places to work as a British expatriate. You can earn some great tax free money, work on exciting projects with market leading employers. It also offers candidates with no previous experience of working in the region a foot into the Middle East market.

The place has its challenges and I have tried to highlight several major issues in this blog. It's not for everyone and some of the practical issues such as schooling places could mean Qatar will not work for you and your family.

However for those currently with tunnel vision for opportunities in Dubai, I would recommend taking a serious look at Qatar. There are numerous expatriate forums around that you can read up to get a feel for the place. If you get chance take a visit to Doha, it's a beautiful place. As you drive down the cornice with the turquoise water in the bay to your right approaching one of the most impressive sky lines in the World, you will be impressed.

If after a year you decide Qatar is not for you, the experience you have gained will almost certainly open doors for you elsewhere in the region.

We are currently doing a large percentage of our work in Qatar and would urge anyone interested in working in Qatar to take a look at our advertised vacancies on the Maxim Recruitment web-site and if suitable apply for the relevant position.

Stuart Hackett
Maxim Recruitment
Middle East Region

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